Cory Gardner Enter Colorado US Senate Contest; Owen Hill Stays

 Twitter was all… umm, atwitter with news that US Representative (class of 2010) Cory Gardner would jump into the US Senate race in Colorado against Democrat Mark Udall. With the 2014 mid-term elections right around the corner, the news for Democrats seeking re-election to the US Senate is not getting better. It seems that the list of troubled incumbents grows by the week, and there’s more potential targets on the horizon. Early polls have the Republicans potentially taking back control of the US Senate to go along with their control of the US House of Representatives. Colorado was not supposed to be competitive, but Obamacare has some serious legs these days.

With the 2014 mid-term elections right around the corner, the news for Democrats seeking re-election to the US Senate is not getting better. It seems that the list of troubled incumbents grows by the week, and there’s more potential targets on the horizon. Early polls have the Republicans potentially taking back control of the US Senate to go along with their control of the US House of Representatives. Colorado was not supposed to be competitive, but Obamacare has some serious legs these days.

2014elections_small Cory Gardner Enter Colorado US Senate Contest; Owen Hill Stays

The Democratic Incumbent

Mark Udall is a former congressman who was first elected to the US Senate in 2008 during the Democratic sweep year. He managed only 53% of the vote despite a weak opponent and benefiting from being on the same ballot as Barack Obama. Like all other Democrats running for re-election, Udall cast the “deciding” vote for Obamacare, since no Democrats were allowed to stray to allow its passage. Udall also joined the Democrats anti-gun crowd in early 2013. Later that year, two state Senators – including the Senate President – were successfully recalled and booted from office for their gun control efforts. Udall has also voted against completing the securing of the border, another potential hot topic. And unfortunately for Udall, the “pot referendum” was on the 2012 ballot to help drive support to the polls for President Obama.

The Republican Challengers

Early on, 2010 Senate nominee Ken Buck was the early favorite to take on Udall, and he polled well despite a lackluster performance in his previous effort. But a late February deal saw Buck dropping from the Senate race and backing a new entrant: US Congressman Cory Gardner. Buck opted to run for Gardner’s current seat instead, while another top challenger also dropped and endorsed Gardner. Gardner’s entrance cause much excitement within the party as Gardner – a rising star and loyal party foot soldier – was viewed as a solid mainstream conservative Republican with great presence and the ability to raise plenty of cash.

Also running is state senator Owen Hill, a Ron Paul and tea party backed candidate. He has vowed to stay in the race and the seeming backdoor dealing and race shake-up could set up another tea party vs establishment showdown. But Hill’s relatively new political career is going to make it hard to compete with Gardner who will undoubtedly have the backing of the party.

Recent Electoral Trends

Colorado voted for the Republican nominee for president in 9 out of 10 contests prior to Obama’s back-to-back victories in 2008 and 2012. After George w. Bush twice won the state by 9 (2000) and 5 (2004) points, Obama won by the same margins in his two terms. In 2010, Republican Ken Buck lost by just 1.5 points to Democratic incumbent Michael Bennett, who outspent Buck by more than $8M, a near 4-1 advantage. After the 2008 sweep election, Democrats held 5 of the 7 congressional seats. In the tea party sweep year of 2010, Republicans won two back – including a victory by Cory Gardner. They currently hold a 4-3 lead over Democrats in the congressional delegation. In 2013, two state senators – including the Senate Speaker – were successfully recalled by voters following support for more gun control. A third state senator resigned out of fear of being recalled by voters and allowing Republicans to take control of the chamber.

Race Outlook

The last few election cycles have seen a trend: fresh faces are in. In 2010, fresh conservative faces popped up to knock off incumbent and establishment Republicans in primaries and Democrats in the general election. In 2012, the establishment had most of their picks make the general elections (mostly recycled once-popular party relics) and went on to lose to fresh-faced Democrats. Gardner and Owen both offer a lot of what the 2010 class did, and the bad news for Udall is that the power of incumbency is not what it once was. In pre-Gardner polling, Udall was holding onto slim 3 and 2 point leads against Buck and State Representative Amy Stephens. They were within striking distance of Udall and dropped out to support Gardner, perhaps offering a hint or two of his potential. Owen Hill was mostly unknown by voters in the poll, but was still within 5 points anyway.